Film, TV & books, Los Angeles, Travel

Tuesday at the Studio

Oh boy, do I ever love to eavesdrop. I’m back at Aroma Cafe; this place is amazing. Aside from the ludicrous display of baked temptations (today it’s a sticky bun), and the menu, packed bottom to top with savoury lunch and breakfast items, the true draw is the wraparound back patio. Wicker chairs, large wooden umbrellas with deep red covers, palm fronds*, antique lanterns and faux chandeliers, and every second person deserving of a double-take, “Wait. Do I know you from somewhere?”

To my left is a middle-aged woman bragging about how well the Universe is treating her these days; (I’ve gathered that it has something to do with her donating all of her shoes.) At my ten o’clock is a five o’clock-shadowed writer, complete with ball cap, v-neck, and cheap, worn down shoes. (He’s actually just reading a screenplay and not writing one, so the writer assumption is based purely on appearance.)

But enough about this place, let’s talk about Day 5!

So last year I graduated from the Writing for Film & Television program at VFS. (Yes, I realize this has been established; stay with me.) The head of that program is one Michael Baser. Now, Mr. Baser is married to a lovely woman named Barbara Stoll. Barbara happens to live and work in L.A. at Sony Pictures Studios as a line producer and was kind enough to invite Nisha and I to join her for lunch.

We left the house by 9 a.m. ensuring that we wouldn’t be late for lunch. (Actual travel time: 1 hour 40.) Thankfully Hayley and Ryan live quite close to a metro stop so we were able to hop on that and transfer to a second line, taking us all the way to Culver City. We were a little early so we popped into Trader Joe’s so Nisha could experience all its otherworldly glory. After some free samples, we walked a few more blocks, checked in, and walked onto the Sony lot.

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I can understand how someone might get jaded quickly, but walking onto that lot for the first time was pretty damn cool. Everything is polished and manicured and a giant wooden rainbow streaks across the sky and the buildings are labelled with names like Garbo, Hepburn, Gable, and Crawford.

Barbara was kind enough to invite a VFS writing alumni to join us for lunch and answer some questions. Richard has been living in L.A. for three years and has been extremely successful working his way up as a sitcom writer. He reiterated that people want to read original scripts as opposed to spec episodes and seemed to attribute a lot of his success to being aggressive. (Maybe I’m misremembering here, but a theme that’s been standing out to me lately is BE AGGRESSIVE — more on this later.) We took a tour around the lot and Barbara let us peek our heads into the sets of Men at Work (TBS) and her pilot, The McCarthys. Then, our most wonderful host arranged for Nisha and I to sit in on a rehearsal of Men at Work; (and drove us to said rehearsal in a golf car. Highlight of the week!)

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I’ve been lucky enough to sit in on a multi-cam rehearsal once before (Some Assembly Required in Burnaby, B.C.) but this was Nisha’s first experience. (Let’s be honest, though, still just as cool the second time; especially when Michael Cassidy is wandering around.) The sole voyeurs in the bleachers, we moved back and forth as the cast and crew went from scene to scene. Neither of us had seen the show before (it actually doesn’t even air in Canada) but it was a lot of fun to watch, particularly seeing Danny Masterson (Hyde from That 70s Show), Kelen Coleman (The Mindy Project, The Newsroom, and recently cast in The McCarthys), and the aforementioned Michael Cassidy (Zac from The OC). Also, to our confusion, we spotted Breckin Meyer on the floor, standing around, not acting. Turns out he actually created the show. Who knew! It’s always really cool to get a peek behind the scenes and we even got to chat a bit with one of the writers afterward.

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View from the Universal City metro stop.

We then said goodbye to Barbara and hopped back on the metro. After a long journey, we arrived home, popped several bottles of wine, and had a lovely dinner with Ryan and Hayley.

* I literally have no idea what a palm frond is or if those two words accurately represent the foliage on the back patio, but it really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Say it: palm frond. Ahh, yes, like a tropical ocean breeze.

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